Your Curlies Golden Years
When does a pet become "old"?
It varies, but small dogs are generally considered geriatric at
the age of 7. Larger breed dogs tend to have shorter life spans and are considered geriatric when they are approximately 6
years of age.
Owners tend to want to think of their pet's age in human terms. While it is not as simple as "1 human
year = X dog years", there are calculations that can help put a pet's age in human terms:
Age: Human Equivalents for Older Pets
|Dog years ||Human years |
||Small – Medium: 44-47 years|
|Large – Very large: 50-56 years|
|10 ||Small – Medium: 56-60 years|
|Large – Very large: 66-78 years|
|15 ||Small – Medium: 76-83 years|
|Large – Very large: 93-115 years|
– Medium: 96-105 years|
0-20 lbs; Medium: 21-50 lbs; Large: 51-90 lbs; Very large: >90 lbs |
The oldest recorded age of a cat is 34 years.
The oldest recorded age of a dog is 29 years.
Basic Needs Of Older Dogs
Among the basic things owners need to know about raising older pets, Dodman says, is that older dogs are typically more sensitive
to extreme temperature changes because of changes in their metabolism.
"They're really like older people," he explains. "Older people are often the ones who are
the victims of these freezing bouts or extremes of heat. They're less able to thermoregulate. So we have to take account of
that by making sure they have some kind of blanketlike coat or contraption on to keep them warm and not keep them out so long
in cold weather. The same goes for heat. You really don't want to leave them out in the yard, especially tied up on an extremely
hot day. They can dehydrate. They're less able to cope with the change in temperature, and it's a recipe for disaster."
HELP YOUR DOG GET ENOUGH EXERCISE
Your dog may be slowing down but that doesn’t mean he should spend his days curled up on the couch. Exercise is critical
to keeping your dog healthy, both physically and mentally. Your dog may not be able to go on long hikes with you but shorter,
less strenuous walks will keep him feeling good.
According to Dr. Ward, “Exercise is critical to keeping your pet youthful – Keeping a pet lean as they age is
one of the most important factors in preventing health issues.
KEEP YOUR DOG AT A HEALTHY WEIGHT
Extra pounds on older dogs means more stress on their body, including joints
and internal organs. If you feel your dog needs to shed a few pounds, talk with your veterinarian about a weight loss and
The large mass or weight of the dog will stress the joints further, You can often get a lot of relief
from joint pain if you can get him down to his fighting weight.
FEED YOUR DOG
A NUTRITIOUS DIET
Good nutrition is important at every age, but, according to Dr. Ernie Ward, veterinarian
and senior pet health expert. “Feeding your pet the proper nutrition in their senior years… is critical to…
keeping them active and playful.”
your vet about the type of diet your dog needs. Your vet can make recommendations about quality brands, ingredients or special
formulas your senior dog needs to thrive.
Is my pet becoming senile?
Possibly. Once any underlying or other disease causes have been ruled out, there is a chance your pet may be experiencing
cognitive dysfunction. Studies conducted in the early 1990s were the first to identify brain changes in older dogs that were
similar to brain changes seen in humans with Alzheimer's disease (ie, ß-amyloid deposits). Laboratory tests were also
developed in the 1990s to detect learning and memory deficits in older dogs. Recently these studies have started on younger
dogs in order to fully understand the effect of aging on the canine brain. Similar studies in young and older cats are also
While researchers are still not able to identify any
genetic cause of why certain animals develop cognitive dysfunction, there are drugs and specific diets available that can
help manage cognitive dysfunction in dogs. If you think your pet is becoming senile, discuss it with your veterinarian.
When should we euthanize a pet? How will we know it's the
This can be an incredibly difficult question for both the owner and the
veterinarian, and is often a very tough decision to make. Sometimes, euthanasia is obviously the best thing to do for your
pet. At other times, however, it can be less clear. An open discussion with your veterinarian, including an honest evaluation
of your pet's quality of life, should help you make the decision.
One way to determine if your aging pet is still enjoying life and can remain with us a little longer is by using a "Quality
of Life" scale to determine if the animal's basic needs are being met. This scale can be helpful for the veterinarian
and pet owner when deciding what is best for your pet. In this scale, pets are scored on a scale of 1 through 10 in each category,
with 10 being the highest score for quality of life. Again, only an honest evaluation of each category will help with the
decision. Because the scoring is subjective, this score should be a part, but not the sole driver, of your decision based
on your pet's individual situation.
|0-10 ||HURT Adequate pain control (including breathing ability)|
|0-10 ||HUNGER Is the pet eating enough? Does the pet require hand-feeding or a
|0-10 ||HYDRATION Is the pet dehydrated? Does it need subcutaneous
|0-10 ||HYGIENE Pet needs to be brushed and clean, especially
|0-10 ||HAPPINESS Does the pet express joy/interest?
Does it respond to its environment? Does the pet show signs of boredom/loneliness/anxiety/fear?|
|0-10 ||MOBILITY Can the pet get up without assistance does the pet want to go for a walk? Is the pet experiencing
|0-10 ||MORE GOOD THAN BAD When bad days
start to outnumber good days, the quality of life becomes compromised and euthanasia needs to be considered|
|Total ||A total of 35 points is considered acceptable
for a quality of life score.|
Behavioral changes that you may see in your older
Separation anxiety....you may note that when you leave your older dog alone, she become destructive or barks
or whines or loses control of elimination
Sensitivity to noise....thunderstorms that never bothered him before may now make your older dog tremble
Vocalizing....may be due to loss of hearing or to
be due to painful joints, a drug reaction, or intolerance for new people and new circumstances; your older dog likes things
to remain the same
lack of attentiveness, disorientation....
Roaming in circles, barking at nothing, being withdrawn....
Urinary incontinence and loss of housetraining
Urinary incontinence is involuntary or uncontrollable leaking
of urine from the bladder. In older dogs, especially spayed females, small quantities of urine may leak from the urethra while
the dog is resting or sleeping. Treatment for incontinence is usually not difficult. Phenylpropanolamine (PPA) and estrogens,
such as diethylstilbestrol, are commonly used.
Some older dogs who have been housetrained for years, may start having 'accidents.' As with other behavior problems in older
dogs, there may be multiple causes for this change in behavior. Any older dog with a house soiling problem should be examined
by a veterinarian and the owner should be able to give a detailed history of the color and amount of urine (or stool) passed,
the frequency at which the dog needs to eliminate, changes in eating or drinking habits, the dog's posture while eliminating,
and whether the 'accidents' only occur when the owner is gone. Medical conditions contributing to the house soiling problem
should be treated appropriately. Prostate enlargement
When an unneutered male dog reaches 8 years of age, he has a greater than 80% chance of developing prostate disease, but
it is rarely cancerous. In most cases, the prostate just enlarges. The prostate enlargement, however, can cause problems with
urination or defecation. Older male dogs, especially those who are not neutered should have their prostate gland checked as
part of the regular physical exam. The risk of prostate disease can be greatly reduced if the dog is neutered.
Pax wears a harness
so his owners can help him stand
Difficulty in getting up from a lying position, or other problems with moving may indicate arthritis.
Your vet will be able to advise you on ways you can relieve your dog's discomfort and lack of mobility.
Problems with vision and hearing are natural as a dog ages. Accommodate
these changes as best you can -- by not changing the location of furniture, for example, or clapping instead of calling your
dog's name when he no longer seems able to hear you.
Graying hair and drying skin are sure signs of aging. More attention to grooming and the introduction of massage will help
the condition of the skin and coat.
and hair coat changes
As with people, older dogs may start to show gray hair; this most commonly occurs on the muzzle and around the eyes. The
haircoat may become thinner and duller, however, this can also be a sign of disease or nutritional deficiency. Fatty acid
supplements may help restore some of the luster to the coat. If the haircoat of an older dog changes significantly, the dog
should be checked by a veterinarian. Older dogs may need to be groomed more often, with special attention given to the anal
area. Grooming is a great way for you to spend some enjoyable time with your older dog. He will love the attention.
The skin of the older dog may become thinner, and thus more subject
to injury. Some older dogs develop multiple benign tumors of the skin, which are generally not removed unless easily traumatized.
Cancerous tumors of the skin can also occur. Dry skin can be a problem for older dogs, and again, fatty acid supplements may
dog with callus on elbowIt is common for older, large breed dogs to develop calluses on their elbows. Part of the reason
for this is the tendency of older dogs to be less active and lay down more. Especially if they lay down on hard surfaces,
calluses are likely to develop. Providing a dog bed, especially an orthopedic bed, can help prevent calluses.
Brittle nails and thickened foot pads
as we see changes in the haircoat, we can also see thickening of the foot pads and changes in the nails of older dogs. They
may tend to become brittle. Care must be taken in clipping the nails of older dogs, and they may need to be clipped more often,
since older inactive dogs are less likely to wear their nails down through activity.
Changes in the eye and vision loss
Many dogs develop a condition of the eye called nuclear sclerosis. In this condition, the lens of the eye appears
cloudy, however, the dog can usually see quite well. Many owners are concerned their dog has cataracts (which do affect vision)
when the dog really has nuclear sclerosis. Cataracts are common in older dogs of certain breeds, though, as is glaucoma. Any
sudden changes in vision or appearance of the eyes could signal an emergency; contact your veterinarian as soon as possible.
Ophthalmic exams should be part of the physical exam in older dogs.
Some dogs will experience hearing loss as they age.
Slight hearing loss is hard to evaluate in dogs. Often hearing loss is severe before the owner becomes aware of the problem.
The first sign noticed may look like aggression. In reality, it may be the dog was unaware of a person's approach, became
startled when touched, and instinctively reacted. Owners may also report the dog is no longer obeying commands (the dog no
longer hears them).
The hearing loss generally can not be reversed,
but some changes in interaction with the dog can help reduce the effects. One of the reasons to teach dogs hand signals for
various commands while they are young, is that these hand signals are very useful if the dog develops hearing loss. The use
of lights to signal dogs (e.g.; flashing the yard light when you want the dog to come in from outside) can be useful. Dogs
with hearing loss can still sense vibration, so clapping hands or stomping on the floor may alert the dog you are trying to
communicate with him.
Just this side of heaven
is a place called Rainbow Bridge.
When an animal dies that has been
especially close to someone here, that pet goes to Rainbow Bridge.
There are meadows and hills for all of our special friends so they can run and play together.
There is plenty of food, water and sunshine,
and our friends are warm and comfortable.
All the animals who had been ill and old are restored to health and vigor; those who were hurt or maimed are made whole and
strong again, just as we remember them in our dreams of days and times gone by.
The animals are happy and content, except for one small thing; they each
miss someone very special to them, who had to be left behind.
They all run and play together, but the day comes when one suddenly stops and looks into the distance.
His bright eyes are intent; His eager body quivers. Suddenly he begins to run from the group, flying over the green grass,
his legs carrying him faster and faster.
You have been spotted, and when you and your special friend finally meet, you cling together in joyous reunion, never to
be parted again. The happy kisses rain upon your face; your hands again caress the beloved head, and you look once more into
the trusting eyes of your pet, so long gone from your life but never absent from your heart.
Then you cross Rainbow Bridge together....